Topix is repositioning and relaunching its local news aggregation site as a citizen journalism network. It's also dropped the ".net" and will begin branding itself using the newly acquired ".com" version of its name, Topix CEO Rich Skrenta announced on the Topix blog, and further opined about on his Skrentablog in a post tellingly titled, "What do you do when your success ... sucks?"
"We took a hard look at ourselves at Topix last year. We had built up a strong local audience on the site, but a lot of it was SEO, and while users were clearly getting some value out of our product, we hadn't made something that people really cared about. As cool a technical trick as our aggregated geolocalized news pages were, they actually pretty much sucked.
Thus began a six-month self-examination of why, exactly, our product sucked, and what we could do to un-suckify it."
Skrenta and Topix rejected the idea of reinventing the site as a MySpace or Digg clone, and decided the best way to take advantage of the existing strengths of Topix's hyper-local network with aggregation and AI technology was to build something more like community-edited blogs.
The new Topix will be a human-edited system, which accepts submissions from all users. A "roboblogger" will post news in areas that do not have human editors, which is basically the software the runs the previous version of Topix. More than 100 journalists from Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy (which all partner with Topix for news distribution) will also act as editors for their local cities.